7 Sleep Gadgets That Actually Work

Sleep is everything. We should officially quit saying other things are "everything" because sleep is everything, ever. A full, uninterrupted night of rest makes our brains more efficient, our mood more stable and positive, and even allows our bodies to work better. When we get a lousy night's sleep? Everything is lousy.
I'm generally a difficult sleeper, but I go through phases where sleep feels like a college I will never get into. Like, my teachers are all, "Sure, apply to Sleep. You never know!" But then they leave brochures for Insomniac online night classes on my desk, because who are we kidding? Over the past few months, I decided to throw some technology at the problem. Don't get me wrong; I'm well-versed in natural remedies and the importance of sleep hygiene. I work out, my supplements are stocked, and my phone is chock-full of guided sleep meditations. Usually, that stuff (plus, some classic breathing techniques) does the trick. Sometimes, though, I need a little extra help.
I tested out some of the most popular and praised sleep-tech gadgets on the market, from simple to incredibly strange. Some worked like gangbusters; others had a more subtle impact. But, each of them surprised me in their ability to help me get to sleep and stay asleep. Ahead, the ones worth taking a look at (if only because one of them is a magic sleep bracelet). Here's hoping one of them will take you off the waiting list and get you into Sleep.
Goodnight, and good luck.
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Photo: Courtesy of Glo To Sleep.
Glo To Sleep

Glo To Sleep is a sleep-therapy mask, with a few key alterations. It's designed to help shut out sleep disruptions and calm your busy mind. Within its cupped eye covers are a set of lightly pulsing blue lights (not to be confused with the blue light from your phone and laptop screens, which keep you awake). Like any high-quality sleep mask, it blocks out all outside light. But, this one also serves to draw your focus to its gradually fading blue tones — and away from angry thoughts of that coworker who may or may not be stealing your apples from the office fridge.

The first night, I felt a bit like I was crossing my eyes trying to stare at these lights. The eye position is an awkward adjustment, but who cares; it works. I had the urge to close my eyes almost immediately, and drifted off as the gentle light faded in front of my lids. The mask was more comfortable than I expected, though it did have that new-foam smell for a few days, which wasn't exactly relaxing. Truly, the best part was having the cushioning around my eyes, rather than on them — there was no pressure against my eyes at all.

Verdict: A winner. I slept through the night with no disruptions — a truly unusual phenomenon for me. Another thrilling perk I soon discovered: This mask is an air-travel game-changer.
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Photo: Courtesy of Serene House.
Serene House Angel Ultrasonic Scentilizer Aromatherapy Diffuser

While it’s still a growing field of study, initial findings indicate that aromatherapy can indeed help you fall asleep (and make sleep more restful). But, most people probably don’t need a study to tell them the powerful influence scent can have on our physical and mental states; just imagine taking a sniff of fresh lemon zest or hot jasmine tea. As for the fragrance proven most effective in inducing relaxation and sleep, lavender wins.

But, I still had my doubts. Maybe aromatherapy would work for those who just needed a subtle sleep aid, but I wasn’t going to mess around with “maybe.” So, I decided to try the Serene House Angel Diffuser — the fancy-pantsiest aromatherapy machine I could find. This beauty comes complete with optional soothing sounds. And, when I plugged it in, I discovered its real power: power. Though I’d added just a few drops of lavender essential oil, my room instantly filled with a light, lovely aroma.

Using the Angel in the evenings resulted in some truly relaxing nights. If it didn’t knock me out immediately, it definitely helped me calm down and unwind. Changing the scent of the air changed the whole environment of my room. It felt cozy, so I felt cozy. I was so pleased with the relaxation effect that I decided to try another oil during the day. Sure enough, a lemon or grapefruit essential oil in the Angel gave me a significant lift first thing in the morning.

Verdict: Aromatherapy’s impact is subtle — but not insignificant. You might not need to go straight for the fancy-pants Angel. But, a bottle of essential oil in a simple diffuser might be all the persuasion you need.
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Photo: Courtesy of SleepShield.
SleepShield Blue Blocking Screen

One of the primary recommendations for good sleep hygiene is to remove screens from the bedroom. For the most part, this edict is about keeping the space sacred. In a perfect world, the bedroom would just be used for sleep and sex. No zoning out to Netflix, no working on laptops in bed, and no phone plugged in on the nightstand.

As. If. I'm sorry, but, as if.

Like many of us, my bedroom is my universe. I don't have heaps of living space to lounge around in, so ALL of my gadgets live within 10 feet of my bed. I do my best to reduce screen time leading up to sleep, but eliminating it entirely is also a bit of an "as if" for me. I can turn off the TV and the computer, but ignoring my phone is kind of a deal-breaker. That brings us to the secondary (but major) issue of screens: blue light. While all light blocks melatonin production, blue light nearly cuts it in half. Screens are the worst culprit in terms of blue-light emissions, so if you routinely put yourself to bed by playing Candy Crush, the odds are it’ll take you a lot longer to nod off (and the sleep will be less restful).

Enter: the SleepShield Blue Blocking Screen. With this simple phone accessory, you can rest assured that when you’re keeping yourself up on Twitter all night, it’s your fault — and not the blue light's. I swapped out my regular iPhone screen cover for the SleepShield, and the difference was immediate. Science is real, you guys! It looks like a regular, transparent screen cover, but when I started using this baby, I got drowsy earlier and earlier. SleepShield makes screen covers for iPhones, Galaxies, laptops, and tablets.

Verdict: Worth it. I won’t say this single tool completely changed my sleep, but it made a significant impact — and with zero effort or routine-changing on my part. You know the difference that extra half-hour makes when you get a chance to sleep in? Imagine that feeling every day.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ipnos Soft.
Relax Melodies App

Breaking: Noise disrupts sleep. Many of us who live on busy streets — or near particularly chirpy birds — are well-versed in the plethora of white-noise machines and sound-reducing technology that's out there. When my clunky, old Bed Bath & Beyond white-noise machine finally died, I decided to join the 21st century and fall asleep the way all the kids are doing it these days: with my phone.

Relax Melodies is the ultimate white-noise app. It doesn't only come with the traditional "husshhhh" — users can also choose from dozens of other soothing sounds. Perhaps you’d enjoy a campfire? Wind chimes? Rain on a roof? Rain in the city? Rain plus thunder plus distant traffic? Yep, you can even combine your favorites, adjust levels, and make your own ultimate relaxation mix.

It was both comforting and alarming to discover that I’m not the only one who sometimes requires such specific soothing.

Verdict: Mandatory. Think I’m a weirdo? The next time you need to shut out noisy neighbors, download this free app and curl up by a “campfire” (with or without “frogs”). Get back to me in the morning.
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Photo: Courtesy of SleepPhones.
Sleep Phones

When the noise gets really bad, I reach for my ear buds. Sure, they block out residual sound, but they do nothing to prevent anxiety over whether or not I’m going to strangle myself with the cord in my sleep (or worse, drag my phone off the nightstand so it smashes on the floor!). One exhausted morning, I found myself Googling wireless headphone options — and miraculously stumbled across everything I’ve ever wanted: Sleep Phones.

This device is a super-soft headband with headphones embedded inside. They connect via Bluetooth to your phone or music device, so you can listen to white noise, audiobooks, or even TV (should you decide to just stay awake and binge-watch The Killing while the jerk in bed next to you sleeps like a jerk baby). And, you can press the discreet button embedded in the headband to easily turn the device off when you start to fall asleep, intend of opening your eyes, fiddling with buttons, and ruining the whole process.

Verdict: Good for the noise-sensitive. Sleep Phones make noise-reduction all the more comfortable and easy to control. (Note: there is a wired version, too, which is less expensive and may suit your setup better.) Now, I just keep them charged and pop them on, whether or not my neighbors are carousing (god, I’m old). Take that, pre-dawn garbage trucks.
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Photo: Courtesy of Philip Stein.
Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet

Of all the weird, questionable, and expensive things I tried on my quest for a good night’s sleep, the Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet tops them all. It looks like a watch, but instead of a watch face, it holds a metal disc that's meant to attract natural frequencies from the environment and atmosphere. I KNOW.

The frequencies, according to one study, cause human cells to produce a higher rate of melatonin, inducing natural sleep. Sleep specialist Dr. Michael Breus (he’s not a brand spokesperson but does recommend it to patients) told The Cut that the bracelet, “is based on the idea of a tuning fork. As the frequency resonates from the bracelet, the body naturally tunes to it, aligning sleep.” As with aromatherapy, I started out skeptical and ended pleasantly surprised — if not overwhelmed with delight. With regular use of the sleep bracelet, I found myself falling asleep with greater ease. It didn’t have as much impact on helping me stay asleep, but I’ll take whatever help I can get. Many reviews of the bracelet reveal that users typically experience the same thing: a positive improvement in their sleep. Though few people noticed a miraculous shift, chronically sleepless people know that every little bit counts.

Even more telling about this strange accessory’s efficacy is the fact that few customers ever return the bracelet, despite the company’s 60-day return policy.

Verdict: Should you shell out $395 for a sleep bracelet that works great for some people and so-so for others? It might be worth a shot. If it doesn’t work out in 60 days, you can get a full refund. If it does work, you may have found the miracle cure you’ve been (not) dreaming of.
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Photo: Courtesy of Philips.
Wake-Up Light

For some folks, it’s not so much about sleeping better as it is about waking up better. I never considered myself one of those people — until I tried the Wake-Up Light.

Dawn simulators are the most user-friendly form of light therapy. There’s clear evidence in the efficacy of dawn simulation as an ideal method of waking up. After all, humans evolved to wake up with the sun — not with the terrifying jolt of a nightmarish BEEP. When exposed to a gradually brightening light, your brain sends out wake-up signals and hormones that eventually rouse you, naturally. But, few of us actually start our day at the crack of dawn. So, the Wake-Up Light lets you fake a dawn on your own schedule.

I set the alarm for 7 a.m. and adjusted the light setting to begin 20 minutes before (you can choose between a 20 and 40-minute simulation). As a back-up, I turned on the sound feature as well, choosing a chorus of nature sounds to fade in at 7 a.m. on the dot. When I woke up in the morning, it was just that: waking up. It wasn’t the usual lurching-out-of-unconsciousness-to-fumble-for-my-phone. I wasn’t jumping out of bed with energy, but I didn’t spend my typical 10 minutes of moaning and cajoling myself off the pillow. I was fully awake and alert. Sure, it was still 7:00 a.m. — but 7:00 a.m. never felt so not horrible.

Verdict: The Wake-Up Light requires certain conditions to work effectively (i.e. a dark room). But, the results can make a big difference in the way you start your day.